Donut Tread on Me

This week, I got several calls from some people I love and respect regarding the donut mural. I suspect my response to their questions regarding the evil sign ordinance surprised them- I played devil’s advocate. This may be a result of my inner rebel not wanting to go along with the crowd, or perhaps it's my inner level wanting to bring a question into balance. Since everyone else is talking about it, I guess I'll pile on.

The sign ordinance was crafted in an attempt to keep the city from turning into one big Brainerd Road, and it has been moderately successful for the past decade or so. While I wasn't one of the principals, I remember that a lot of effort was expended to get the ordinance in place (not to mention tussles with the sign company lobby and narrow-minded elected officials). Lord knows I never suffered the sign ordinance folks gladly, but they are doing their (thankless) job. Just remember that many of those up in arms about the overreach of the sign ordinance, would be the first to petition the city for tighter controls if Uncle Bob’s Storage did the same thing.

The donut mural may be a slight improvement over the blank wall, but I agree with the enforcement officer that it violates the current ordinance. My fear is that the controversy over this work will lead to a change in the ordinance which will lead in turn to unintended negative consequences. What might those be? How about a building-sized portrait of a divorce lawyer? (tastefully done of course). How about avant garde photography of the interior of a storage unit? How about the idea that Bystander beat me too? If you believe in the freedom of enormous and exuberant expression, then you must be prepared to accept that right for all. We can’t selectively enforce the law based on our artistic sensibilities.

Maybe I’m missing the point. Do you think this groundswell of outrage is a sign that the community is ready for the City to take a hands-off approach to the regulation of design in the built environment? Are we willing to accept the works of pawn shops/attorneys/carwashes in exchange for our murals? Shall we channel our inner Venturi and embrace Learning From Las Vegas.

That said, this whole affair is bullshit. I just can’t get myself fired up about it. The spectacle is ridiculous. The sheer number of news articles, Facebook posts, and petitions over this “issue” are astounding. If you’re not familiar with it, you can read about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If that’s not enough, please follow @savedonutscha on Twitter (seriously).

A Brief Aside: “Don’t Koch Block Public Art” was a mildly humorous hashtag, but taking it out of the virtual world and posting yard signs all over Main Street is pretty weak. I’m no prude, but I wasn't quite ready to explain to my five and nine year old why "Koch Block" is supposedly funny. While this might be expected on the internet, can we not at least try to be decent in public?

If one considers a community that is focused on debating murals, back-yard chickens, and recalling elected officials, one might come to the conclusion that they have no serious problems. A city like that wouldn’t have bigger issues such as providing decent housing for the citizenry, providing a school system that doesn’t require a lottery (or $23k a year) for a decent education, or dealing with weekly shootings. Right?

What is more important? A mural on a wall, or the lives of our young people.  In the short time we've been up in arms over donut murals this, this, this, and this have happened. How many petitions and yard signs and newspapers articles and Facebook posts and Tweets do you think they will spark? I love the enthusiasm in our community, I just wish we would align our energies with serious issues.

While we're on the topic of offensive pastel painting...
I had a great little walk with the family through Stringer's Ridge this weekend. The view from the observation platform is ALMOST perfect:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

No comments:

Post a Comment